Riverside Scotland has secured nearly £4 million for its customers by helping them obtain benefits and grants they are entitled to.
The registered social housing provider launched a free Money Advice Service in 2012 to make sure customers were getting the money they were due.
New data, published today, shows the service has secured £3.76 million for Riverside Scotland clients since its inception. The figure includes £377,000 of immediate backdated payments as well as £3.39m in additional annual gains.
The sums are all for money that clients were owed, but either did not know how to access or needed help to challenge an error, incorrect assessment or overpayment.
The social landlord is urging people across the nation to speak to Citizens Advice Scotland, or other local advice services, to make sure they are receiving the benefits and grants they are entitled to as the country faces its largest cost of living crisis for more than 30 years.
Riverside Scotland customers Annette and Elizabeth have praised the service for giving them a new lease of life by helping them to claim money they are entitled to. Annette, a former care worker who retired six years ago on grounds of ill health, she says that her quality of life has been transformed after accessing support from the Money Advice Service in 2015.
With the support of the Money Advice Service, Annette discovered she was entitled to Personal Independence Payment, which increased her income by £76.90 per week. This then triggered an additional Severe Disability Premium of £61.85 per week, to be included in her Employment and Support Allowance. In 2016, Annette went back to the Money Advice Service for help to claim her State Pension and Pension Credit, worth £126.21 and £61.29 per week.
Annette, a Riverside Scotland customer from Kilwinning in Ayrshire, said: “The service has been absolutely fantastic, what a difference it has made to my life. I had never claimed benefits before, and I had no clue about what I was entitled to. I got to the stage where I had spent all my savings and I couldn’t manage on the income I had coming in, but I was too frightened to apply for anything in case I made mistakes.
“I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me. For the first time in years, I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for my bills. I’m no longer sitting in the cold and dark to save money, I don’t worry about going shopping for my food. I even get to save a little so that I can spoil my grandchildren now and then. It has had a massive effect on my mental health because instead of sitting there worrying and depressed, I can actually get out and enjoy my life.”
Elizabeth turned to the Money Advice Service in October 2021 after her claim for Personal Independence Payment was refused. The Money Advice Service helped Elizabeth to submit a Mandatory Reconsideration, which was also refused.
The advisers at the Money Advice Service felt that Elizabeth had good grounds to appeal the decision, and so helped her to gather evidence to support an appeal. The Department for Work and Pensions subsequently reviewed their decision and awarded Elizabeth a Personal Independence Payment of £86.30 per week, with a one-off backdated payment of £5,504.66.
While supporting Elizabeth, the Money Advice Service also discovered that her Universal Credit award was incorrect, with an element she was entitled to missing. By assisting Elizabeth with her journal [online communications portal for Universal Credit] she was able to apply for – and was awarded – an additional £150.75 per month. The Money Advice Service also helped Elizabeth apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment totalling £350.
She said: “I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own because I’m not great with words and I just couldn’t explain my situation. What they have done for me has been amazing. It has made a big difference to my life.”
The gains earned by Riverside Scotland for its customers include:
- £938,000 in Housing Benefit Claims
- £545,000 in claims for Employment Support Allowance – a benefit aimed at people who find it hard to work because of a disability or health condition.
- £431,000 in Personal Independence Payments – extra support for people with long-term physical and mental health conditions.
- £243,000 in grants to cover household goods, furnishings and carpets
- £192,000 in Attendance Allowance – money which people older than the state pension age can claim if they need regular help with personal care.
The service also helped clients claim money they were owed through pension credits, working tax credits, council tax benefits and support, exemptions from the so-called “bedroom tax”, and child tax credits and benefits.
The Money Advice Service is free to Riverside Scotland clients. Advisors can visit users in their home, meet them in a Riverside office, or offer a consultation over the telephone.
The service was launched because the complexity of the UK benefits system makes it difficult for some people to navigate. People do not always know what they are entitled to claim. They can also fail to notice that change in life circumstances – such as a bereavement, ill-health, marriage, loss of earnings, a new child or redundancy – could significantly alter their entitlements.
Diana McLean, managing director of Riverside Scotland, said: “While attempts have been made to simplify it the benefits system is complex and difficult to navigate for people, particularly for people affected by stressful life circumstances such as bereavement, ill-health or redundancy.
“I am proud that our money advice team has secured more than £3.75m for Riverside Scotland customers. This money can be a lifeline for families affected by difficult life circumstances, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis where every penny counts. I would urge people across the country to speak to their local advice service to find out if they are eligible for any benefits which they did not know they are entitled to.”
If you require any welfare benefit assistance or money advice, you can contact our Tenancy Sustainability Team on 01294 316784.